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Moderate Dems Slowing Down Obamacare Train

July 14, 2009

By David Gratzer

“We can get it out of the Finance Committee. I don’t think we’ll be through the floor during this work period. I think that’s too big a lift, but that really isn’t that important.”

– Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND), commenting on the prospects of passing health-care legislation by August

So quotes Politico in a good article describing the sluggish pace of the work of House and Senate Democrats. The long and the short of it: passing legislation by the August recess seems less and less possible. The article quotes several people and recounts events of the past few weeks, but, in a nutshell, if the Senate Finance Chairman is already spinning the delay — “that really isn’t that important” — Democrats have basically given up hope.

And that’s a lucky break for Republicans.

Despite the spin, it will be a major blow to the White House. After the break, with the prospect of mid-term elections drawing closer and the Presidential approval rating slipping just slightly lower, the debate will be different.

A likely casualty of the delay: the public plan option, that would have seen 120 million Americans shift on to a Medicare-style public plan. Moderate Democrats in the Senate are growing increasingly less fond of the idea by the day. Senators Conrad, Nelson, and others have little interest in a proposal that looks and feels like single payer health care on the installment plan.

Make no mistake: this isn’t 1994 and the President and his Congressional allies have time to re-tool their strategy. With big majorities in the House and the Senate, legislation will probably be signed by Christmas. But it will not look much like the overreaching proposals discussed this spring and summer.

In avoiding the mistakes of First Lady Hillary Clinton in 1994, President Obama ended up falling into the trap that President George W. Bush did in 2005.

Back in the early 1990s, hoping to push sweeping change in health care, the First Lady drew up her proposal with White House aides, and then pushed her Congressional allies to pass the legislation. Committee chairmen, angry at being slighted and left out, fought over details. The effort ended with a whimper, not a bang — Senator George Mitchell declaring in September 1994 that no vote was planned.

In 2005, President Bush took a different tact with social security reform, deferring to his Congressional allies to sort out the details. Unpersuaded by the urgency of the effort and unable to agree amongst themselves on key issues, President Bush retired to Texas without a final bill being drafted.

Of course, President Obama is much closer to achieving health-care reform than President Bush ever was with changing social security, but their common approach has been equally problematic. Congress is a deliberative body, good at debating, lousy at moving. Future Presidents will need to take note.

In the meantime, a divided and leaderless GOP may be back in the game. For the past few months, they have established what they are against. In the fall, Republican leaders will need to consider if there is any common ground with the White House on health reform.

Original Source:



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